Pancake Men

Every family has their favorite traditional foods they make for Christmas. In Michelle's house, Christmas breakfast always includes a birthday cake for Baby Jesus. Although pancake men are not a part of our holiday celebration, the children enjoyed them just the same :)

In the book Christmas in the Big Woods,

"For Christmas breakfast Ma made each child a pancake man. All the children held their plates next to the stove and watched while Ma made their pancake men one by one out of the pancake batter. Peter ate his right away, but the girls ate theirs slowly to make them last."

Not a shocker that you could have changed out Peter's name for Bug, and the above statements would be true! Bug tends to devour the things he loves to eat, barely coming up for air, while the girls tend to savour their treats!

Below is the recipe I always use to make pancakes from scratch:

1 1/4 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 beaten egg
1 c. milk
2 T. melted butter or margarine

Mix flour with baking powder, sugar, and salt and set aside.
Combine egg, milk, and butter and add to dry ingredients, stirring just until combined; do not over mix! The batter will be lumpy.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or skillet over medium heat (375*F - 400*F). The griddle is ready when a few drops of water bubble and dance across the surface.

For each pancake man, pour about 1/8 cup batter onto hot griddle. Then pour the head, legs and arms. Cook pancakes until surface is covered with bubbles and appear dry around the edges. Turn and cook other side until golden brown. 

Optional: Add chocolate chip or raisin eyes, nose and mouth.

We like to sever our pancakes with melt butter mixed with heated maple syrup. Yum!

Mock Sopapillas

In the book, The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola...

"At home Lucida helped Mama clean their casita-their little house-and pat out the tortillas for their meals."

We did not make our own tortillas, but we used flour tortillas to make "Mock Sopapillas". Easy and yummy, I can almost guarantee that they will become a favorite. Because of the hot oil, I did the cooking, but the wee ones thoroughly enjoyed sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon. There was a lot of finger dipping in sugar and cinnamon that didn't stick to the sopapillas :) Did I say yum?

flour tortillas
sugar/cinnamon mixture
cooking oil

Heat oil to approximately 400 degrees. WARNING: Obviously... keep the wee ones far away from the hot oil!!!
Using a pizza cutter, cut each tortilla into 8 pie shaped pieces.

Place several wedges into the hot oil. When one side is golden brown, carefully turn over and cook the other side. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

Liberally sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Optional: (And the only way to go, in our opinion) drizzle with honey and eat up!

Advent Week 2 - The Legend of the Poinsettia

The complete list of our Advent Celebration activities can be found HERE.

Poinsettias and candy canes, mangers and evergreen trees are all symbols that have come to be associated with Christmas. Some symbols are pulled from history, others from fantasy, and some have been borrowed from other celebrations. Just like learning about how Christmas is celebrated around the world, learning about the significance and origins of the symbols associated with Christmas is fascinating and meaningful. This second week of Advent we are using The Legend of the Poinsettia to begin our discussion on Christmas symbols.

WEEK 2 - Symbols of Christmas
The book: The Legend of the Poinsettia
The craft: Weaving a small blanket (scrap yarns for a 3" x 5" blanket)
The applique: A poinsettia
The recipe: Sopapillas

I can remember as a child wondering if Jesus had a Christmas tree and what kind of gifts he wanted Santa to bring. There are so many traditions and customs associated with Christmas that it is almost impossible for a child to separate secular from religious. Let's face it, it is hard to do as an adult!  And there are so many icons that have become synonymous with Christmas like trees, wreathes, candy canes, presents, angels, and even poinsettias that their significance is often lost.

Whether you celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus or simply embrace the season, I think it is important for children to understand why certain icons are associated with this time of year.  Sharing both fact and legend helps us all better understand  the season and helps delineate between secular and religious celebrations.

There are many wonderful Christmas books for children that share both fact and legend. One of my favorite authors/illustrators of children's literature is Tomie dePaola. His bold, beautiful colors and folksy illustrations are so appealing to children. As a starting point for discussing Christmas symbols, we read dePaola's The Legend of the Poinsettia.

In this book dePaola shares the Mexican folk tale of how a little girl's loving heart brings about a miraculous event. When the local priest asks the little girl's mother to weave a new blanket for the parish's Baby Jesus figure to be used in the Christmas procession, they are thrilled and honored. They will present this blanket as a gift the night of the Christmas procession. When the little girl's mother becomes deathly ill, she tries to complete the blanket, but ruins it instead. Crushed and embarrassed, she hides out the night of the Christmas procession. When a mysterious old woman tells her that "Whatever you give, the Baby Jesus will love, because it comes from you", the little girl gathers up some weeds that she takes as a gift. That night, a miracle occurred, turning a gift of weeds into the beautiful poinsettia plants.  The poinsettia, which is said to resemble the Christmas star, has become one of the most famous symbols of the Season.

Do you have suggestions for other books that discuss the sysmbols of Christmas that your family enjoys? 

Tomorrow... weaving a small blanket


Advent Week 1 - The Littlest Angel

WEEK 1 - Gift Giving From the Heart
The book: The Littlest Angel
The craft: Wool roving angels (natural wool roving)
The recipe: Angel wings
The applique: An angel

Children are constantly learning whether we are aware of it or not. Think about this. How many times between now and December 25 do you think someone will ask your child, "And what do YOU want for Christmas?" A very innocent question, and one that is sure to get a response from even the shyest child. But if the conversation stops there, we are teaching our children that Christmas is all about receiving.

Many years ago, I was in a Community Bible Study, and one day the speaker made this statement... "Children are born selfish, we have to teach them to be giving." My first reaction was, "NO! Children are innocent. They learn selfishness." But the more I thought about it, the more I began to agree with her. Of course, babies are innocent, but they are also self serving... they have to be to survive. As parents we teach our children to care, to love and to share by our actions. Christmas is a perfect time to help children discover the joy of giving to others and what it means to give from the heart.

The lovely story The Littlest Angel, by Charles Tazewell is a wonderful way to share this concept with children.   It was first published in 1946 and has been in print ever since. It is a small wonder that so many of us grew up with this story! I remember the story from Christmas time when I was a little girl, and it was one of my children's favorites. Over the years there have been many different illustrators but the story has remained the same. Our well loved copy is from the late 1970s, and although dated, I love the illustrations.The version that is in print today is beautiful, though, and I've been tempted to order this updated copy!

The story is about how the Littlest Angel is having trouble adjusting to Heaven. An Understanding Angel retrieves the Littlest Angel's Earthly treasure box for him to help in his transition. Just as he receives it, the Christ child is born. In an act of pure selflessness, he decides to give his most prized possessions to the Baby Jesus. Almost immediately he regrets his decision because he thinks his gift looks so ugly next to the beautiful gifts the other angels are giving. But before he can become too distressed, God speaks. He proclaims the Littlest Angel's gift the best, because Jesus has taken a human form, and will be a human boy, and he will value the same treasures as The Littlest Angel. For the first time he feels like he belongs in Heaven!

I know in our family, we used this story to help spark discussions of selfless giving. I also love this story because when speaking about Jesus, we often talk about the babe in the manger or the grown man. We tend to forget the time in between. But Jesus was a little boy, too! It's a concept children enjoy thinking about!

BTW... To share the concept of giving from the heart with older children, share O'Henry's story of the Gift of the Magi. A young couple learns about the joys of giving when they both give up their most prized possessions to by gifts for each other.

Tomorrow... Wool Roving Angels 

Join Our Advent Celebration!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. This is a very special time for our family as we prepare for Christmas. I have put together Advent Activities to do with the wee ones and happily will be sharing our activities with you. In case you would like to join us with all or part of our activities, I'm giving a quick overview here, so you can collect books and materials in advance. I don't have all the details hammered out, but in general, there will be a book each week, an applique block, a kid craft, a recipe and possibly an extended craft. I've also included a rudimentary supply list to get you started. Whether you join us for all the activities or just some, we hope your family has a joyous and meaningful Advent!

WEEK 1 - Gift Giving From the Heart
The book: The Littlest Angel
The craft: Wool roving angels (natural wool roving)
The recipe: Angel wings
The applique: An angel

WEEK 2 - Symbols of Christmas  
The book: The Legend of the Poinsettia
The craft: Weaving a small blanket (scrap yarns for a 3" x 5" blanket)
The recipe: Sopapillas
The applique: A poinsettia

WEEK 3 - Celebrating With Family
The book: Christmas in the Big Woods
The craft: A Gingerbread House
The recipe: Pancake men
The applique: a log cabin

WEEK 4 - Birth of Jesus

The book: Room for A Little One
The craft: Nativity with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus (using 2 large people bodies and 1 boy peg with assorted fabric scraps)
The recipe: Coffee cake birthday cake for Baby Jesus
The applique: not sure yet!

Lot's more detail and lot's more fun as we help the wee ones prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

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